[thelist] CMYK Crash Course

Liz Lawson lizlawson at charitycards.co.uk
Tue Sep 5 03:52:37 CDT 2000

>CMYK is an abbreviation for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (K). They are
>the four colors that are used in printing. Typically, when you use a
>graphics program, you are creating the artwork in RGB color (Red, Green and
>Blue), the colors used by computer monitors.

CMYK, like RGB, uses basic colours to create a spectrum. As I'm sure you
know, this is done by printing lots of little dots of the various colours.
This means that a colour (other than cyan, magenta, yellow or black!)
reproduced in CMYK will never be as intense as an actual ink in that colour.
In print, you would only use CMYK (also called process colour) if you had a
full-colour image. If your design only has two or three colours (or even if
it only has four) you'll get better quality using specific inks rather than
process colours (CMYK).

 It's also important to appreciate that CMYK and RGB do NOT cover the same
area. By this I mean that not all colours which can be displayed in RGB can
be reproduced in CMYK. (Strong blues, clear pinks and reds in particular may
surprise you.).

Your monitor is RGB, even if it's displaying a CMYK document. Your graphics
software will be calculating an RGB display from the CYMK values in the
document. The accuracy of the display depends greatly on the software, how
your monitor is set up and so on.

If you're not used to working for print, you'll have to print out colour
proofs regularly as you go on to see how the colours are looking. But even
your desktop printer (unless you spent a LOT of money on it!) won't
necessarily be handling the colours accurately, so when you go to the
printer, make sure you get a colour proof done. Even if it's just a teeny
weeny job, if you're not used to working in CMYK, it's worth the extra cash.



More information about the thelist mailing list